Archive for the ‘FUN WITH FRENCH & SPANISH’ Category


Some great tools to help facilitate learning a foreign language.

Did you know that learning a foreign language is not difficult if you go about it by accepting a recognized set of habits? Firstly, we all learned our native language quite naturally. We listened to other people and copied what they said. By doing this over and over again, we eventually built a set of habits which enabled us to speak our native language with ease. The learning of a foreign language is based on the same principle. Such study requires some steady work for a few minutes each day, taking into account the following hints which facilitate working more efficiently.


You are faced with the same task that you did as children learning your native language. since you know one language, you can be told how the new language is put together, how it works, and how it is different from yours; these directions can speed the learning of a language. Here are some concrete examples I use with my high school students. I teach both French and Spanish. Both languages are Romance languages which means they have the same root(Latin). Primary goal is help students learn in a way that is very personal to them, that way they will remember the information a lot better. In English we have subject pronouns and their function is to replace a noun. The same is true for both French and Spanish. The subject pronoun “I” is used to speak about yourself. I am Nicole, Je suis Nicole, Yo soy Nicole. The translation for I in French is JE, for Spanish YO. The students quickly learn to imitate me by saying Je suis/ Yo soy to describe themselves.


A language is a set of skills to be acquired; you don’t learn a skill by “THINKING” but by practicing over and over again. That is why people who actually go and live in the country where the language is spoken is able to speed up their learning considerably. They are put in a situation where they are forced to speak therefore they are actually practicing the language over and over again. I came to the United states when I was ten years old. I did not speak one word of English, but after six months living in New York I became very fluent.


It is not good enough to memorize the new material just by reading it over silently; you should read it and study it aloud. This will improve the pronunciation as well as the retention of the material.


Because you are now more mature than when you were a child learning your own language, you have the advantage of being able to analyze the materials you are studying. You will discover, for example, the way your second language changes endings, and start making your own observations and rules accordingly. This can speed up your learning considerably.

Many people complain about not being able to utter one word of the language they learned in school. Why is that? I believe it is because most teachers do not put enough emphasis on the speaking part. There are four major skills that relates to language learning. They are speaking, writing, reading and listening. What are the most important skills to master if you want to speak the language? In my opinion, listening and speaking. Before you can speak you have to be a good listener so you can learn to imitate. As you master the skills of speaking and listening you can now move toward perfecting the reading and writing skills. After having been in the Uniteds for six months, I excelled in speaking English, but struggled with my writing and reading. You always hear how it is very important for parents to read to young children. The reason is because children learn to imitate as they sharpen their listening skills. By doing this over and over again, children eventually learn how to speak. Pretty cool stuff!!

My passion for the past twenty four years has been teaching French and spanish to mostly middle and high school students. I have used the above suggestions with my students and were able to obtain some outstanding results. Though I am still teaching in the high school and middle school I am now wanting to go a different direction. I want to direct my energy toward reaching younger children. That is why I wrote my first picture book in the three languages:English/French/spanish. The very first books I read when I first came to the United states were the Curious George series. I loved those books. My older sisters read those books to me at least a trillion times. After I learned to read English I started reading the books to my dolls pretending to be the bigger sister.

I believe my newly published picture book is a great resource for any parent who wants his or her child to be exposed to French or Spanish. Why the two languages? Why not? Children’s minds are like sponges. Both French and Spanish are romance languages thus have the same grammatical structures. Since the script is side by side, it is quite simple to compare words and the translation. Believe it or not, there are many cognates in French and spanish that are very similar to English. This can be a very fun way for children and adults to learn about another language and culture.


Did you know that over half the words in the English language originated from Latin. In specialized areas such as cuisine and clothing there are hundreds of French words found in English. French and Spanish are both romance languages and have their roots in Latin. It would make sense that either French or Spanish would be a language of choice to study since both languages have Latin roots just like English. English, French and Spanish share many cognates. There are thousand s of English words that have Latin origins and closely resemble words in French and Spanish.

It would be easy for many students studying French and Spanish to do well since English/ French and Spanish share many of the same cognates. The words in the new language could be looked upon as a very handy tool for learning and recognizing unfamiliar or unknown words in their own language. It is very clear that the study of both French and Spanish offers a tremendous asset in developing a richer and more advanced English vocabulary. Here are some examples.

Latin /Spanish Derivative /French derivative/ English Equivalent

Amicus/ Amigo/ Ami /Amicable, friend

Numerous/ Numero /Numéro/ Number

Bonus/ Bueno/ Bon /Good, bonus

Veritas /verdad /Vérité /Truth, veritable

Magister/ Maestro /Maitre/ Magisterial, teacher

Avarus /Avaro /Avare /Avaricious, greedy

Oculus /Ojo/ Oeil /Ocular, eye

I believe as a nation if we want to remain competitive in an ever changing global world, we must change our priorities. Football players and actors earn millions of dollars; yet as a nation we can’t finance early childhood education properly. There is compelling evidence that the earlier a child is exposed to a new language the easier it is for that child to master that language. Foreign language study should be available for all children starting with first grade. In Austria, a student must have eight years of instruction in a modern or classical foreign language before being admitted to a university. It is not unusual for students in Sweden to have taken nine years of English before high school. Even a country like Egypt, requires six years of English study. Here in the united states less than 8 percent of our colleges have a foreign –language entrance requirement. We are the only country where one can graduate from some colleges without having studied a foreign language prior to or during the college years.

The benefits of expanding one’s horizons by becoming fluent in a second language are numerous. It is truly very rewarding to be able to communicate directly and comfortably with other people, I know of no greater joy than that. I have been called to a mission, that mission is to inspire others to be open to learning a new language.


Ever wonder why it is so very easy for a young child to master a new language? It is because children are not easily intimidated, they are eager to learn and most importantly they do not care if they make mistakes. This carefree attitude is essential for language acquisition. Learning a new language requires a certain amount of risk taking. Not everyone feels comfortable speaking in front of other people, especially strangers. The learning environment has to be a place that is conducive to risk taking. It is the responsibility of the instructor to determine how he or she will make the classroom a safe place for all learners to feel comfortable and welcomed.

Once a student feels comfortable he or she can thus begin to open up so he or she can start the process of acquiring the skills necessary to learn how to speak the language. Since language is a set of skills to be acquired; the student must be given ample opportunities to practice over and over again. That is why chain drills are very important. Before long, the student will develop a huge sense of accomplishment, and with that comes the building up of his/her self-esteem.

I have had students who flatly refused to participate in the chain drill activities. They reasoned that they do not want to make a fool of themselves. Consequently, the students in question failed the class and ended up dropping it at the end of first semester. What I learned from these situations is that students with low self-esteem are too afraid to make mistakes; they are usually very shy and keep to themselves.

Early on in my teaching career, I was able to achieve great successes with the students who were risk takers; most of these students had very high self-esteem. They had achieved a high degree o f success in other areas, so it was easy for them to apply that in my class too. High self-esteem and desire to learn goes hand in hand, you can’t have one without the other. Both are essential for acquiring the skills necessary to learn a new language.


How many times do you hear people say, “I studied this or that language for two years but I can’t speak a word of it.” I would like to share some thoughts on this subject. The artificial classroom scene is not an ideal place to master a second language. Most people feel very unsure and even foolish because they have to give up the security of their native tongue in order to learn the new language. Additionally, people may suffer a huge blow to their self-esteem which can make it even more difficult to learn the new language. How do you overcome these obstacles? It is not good enough to simply memorize vocabulary, verbs and such, it is more important for the language experience to be as real as possible. The best way to accomplish this is through active meaningful oral work. Oral work should consist of exchange of ideas, experiences and emotions.

I have been able to achieve great success with my students by providing them with meaningful experiences through active speaking. This is done through chain drills one of the most useful ways to teach new learners how to communicate effectively. The goal is to give the student ample opportunities to engage in conversation that he or she can relate to. Every topic being covered can easily be adopted in a meaningful way. Here are some examples:


Teacher is not dominating the procedure, students are required to answer a question, and then that student turns to his or her neighbor and asks the same question. Je m’appelle Nicole. Et toi, comment t’appelles tu?-My name is Nicole. And you, what is your name? This continues until everyone has had a turn. This exercise may seem very childish and simplistic, but is very effective because the student is exchanging personal information.


Everyone loves to eat; the same kind of drill can be used to foster oral proficiency. Students can thus bring in pictures of their favorite foods.

Lastly, the language experience should model real life experience as much as possible. After all, we all learned our native tongue quite naturally by learning how to speak first.

Why Learn a Foreign Language?

The learning of a foreign language can be a fun way to introduce a child to a different culture. A young child is so free spirited that he or she is not easily intimidated . Young children are eager to learn, therefore they have no problem with imitation. Learning to imitate is a must when it comes to learning how to speak a language. That is how we learned our native tongue.

When I lived in Houston, I taught first grade for one year. The children were all Spanish speakers from Mexico. At the end of the year a lot of them became fluent in English, because they were so eager to learn. I later moved to Colorado and began to teach high school students. I had many Spanish speakers in some of my classes. These students had a lot more difficulties learning English. They were easily intimidated, and they were afraid to speak in front of their peers. Remember the number one rule to learn any language , you must practice, and the only way to practice is to speak! The next question how do you accomplish that tasks? You listen and then you imitate, plain and simple, zero quess work!

So now, what are the benefits of learning a foreign language? To start, if you want to attend a good college, you must have a least three to four years of a foreign language. Secondly, learning a second language can help you do well in others classes too. Thirdly, you become more marketable if you know more than one language. I am very fortunate that I am fluent in four languages. I have worked as a translator in the courts, I tutor college students, during the summers I teach young children in groups of five.

In my opinion , the greatest benefit of knowing a foreign language is the flexibility you have when you travel to the country where the language is spoken. As I write this article I am sitting in a very beautiful balcony in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. My husband took my three children on an adventure of a lifetime. They went ziplining in a beautiful canyon. It is so much fun to be able to communicate with people. I get to practice my Spanish while having a great time . Life is simply grand!